Platycercus icterotis (Kuhl 1820)

Western Rosella

1. Platycercus i. icterotis or female (Kuhl 1820)

Western Rosella

German: Stanleysittich

Description: head, breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts red; chin, cheeks and lores yellow; nape and back feathers black with green edging; also partially with red edging in some older birds; shoulder feathers black becoming green towards tips; inner median wing-coverts black; edge of wing, outer median wing-coverts and under wing-coverts violet-blue; secondary-coverts green with violet-blue outer webs; secondaries green with narrow greenish-blue edging to outer feathers; outer webs at base of primaries and primary-coverts bright violet-blue; lower back and upper tail-coverts green; upperside of middle tail-feathers dark green; outer tail-feathers pale blue with dark blue base and pale tips; tail underside pale bluish; bill light greyish-horn colour; narrow periophthalmic ring grey to dark grey; iris dark brown; feet greyish-brown.

Female with duller red; breast, upper abdomen, crown, nape and lower cheeks green with broad dull red edging; back dull black, each feather broadly edged with green; outer middle wing-coverts green tinged violet-blue; secondary-coverts and outer secondaries with less violet-blue to outer webs;outer webs at base of primaries and primary-coverts dull violet-blue; lower back and upper tail-coverts green; upperside of middle tail-feathers dull dark green; outer tail-feathers pale blue with dark green base and pale tips;whitish under wing-stripe present.

Immatures mainly green to olive-green and with orange-red feathers on forehead, breast, abdomen and umder tail-coverts; young males with more red, particularly breast feathers, which are orange-red; yellow cheek patch mostly absent; light under wing-stripe present adult plumage attained by 14 months.

Length: 26 cm (10 ins)

Distribution: caoastal and adjacent areas in southwest Australia from Moore River to Albany District; overlaps further east with Red-backed Western Rosella xanthogenys.

2. Platycercus i. xanthogenys Salvadori 1891

Red-backed Western Rosella

German: Rotruecken-Stanleysittich

Description: as icterotis, but with paler cheek patch; nape, back, and shoulder feathers black with broad brownish-grey and red edging; lower back and upper tail-coverts olive-grey; middle tail-feathers dull dark blue with little or no dark green tingeing.

Female as icterotis, but much paler; nape, back and shoulder feathers dark grey with broad brownish-grey edging; lower back and upper tail-coverts olive-grey.

Immatures as described for nominate form, but mainly olive-grey;

back and wing edging pale grey.

Length: 26 cm (10 ins)

Distribution: dry interior of southwest Australia.

Note: sub-species xanthogenys is not unreservedly recognised as there is wide overlapping area with icterotis and birds from eastern edge of distribution area differ significantly from nominate form.

Habitat: grass savannah with trees, open woodland, orchards, cultivated areas and pasture with trees as well as trees along water courses; prefers acacia and casuarine shrubland, only occasionally found in dense eucalyptus forest; observed in parks in Perth.

Status: common to numerous; species benefits from forest clearance and grain cultivation.

Habits: usually found in pairs and small family groups; occasionally several groups gather at harvest time to forage for grain; quiet and difficult to detect; mostly only seen when flying up off ground; prefers to remain in tall eucalyptus trees during midday hours; can become very confiding around farmhouses; pairs stay close together; sedentary; flight buoyant and fluttering; similar to Psephotus species; rapid wing-beats alternate with gliding; contact call rapidly repeated soft kwink-kwink; reminiscent of Mulga Parrot (Psephotus varius).

Natural diet: mainly grass seed and vegetable matter foraged on ground; in addition fruits, berries, buds, nuts, flowers, nectar, insects and their larvae; occasionally causes damage to orchards, particularly apples, and cultivated areas.

Breeding behaviour: breeding season from August to December with September main month; nests almost exclusively in tree holes or hollow branches of dead and living eucalyptus trees; clutch 3 to 7 eggs; usually 5 eggs; female broods alone; male remains near nest during this time; incubation 19 days; female only leaves nest to feed for brief periods in morning and evening; fledging period 5 weeks; occasionally young birds not quite with complete adult plumage brood; egg measures 25.9 x 21.9 mm (1.02 x 0.86 ins).

Aviculture: fairly quiet parakeet; not shy; hardy and robust; can be kept with other birds; good fliers; provide regular supply of fruit tree and willow branches; enjoys bathing; also scratching in sand on aviary floor; requires regular worming.

Accommodation: in pairs in outside flight at least 3 x 1 x 2 m (9 x 3 x 6 ft) with adjoining shelter; provide roosting and nesting box 18 x 18 x 50 cm (7 x 7 x 20 ins) with entrance hole 5 cm (2 ins) in diameter.

Diet: mix of sunflower, canary grass seed, various millets and weed seeds, oats, wheat and some hemp; various fruit and vegetables, especially carrot and apple; rose-hip; rowanberries; greenfood (chickweed, dandelion, etc.); eggfood and soft insect food as well as some sprouted sunflower for rearing.

Breeding in aviculture: regularly achieved and not difficult; breeding begins mostly in April or May; clutch usually 5 to 7 eggs; incubation time 19 to 20 days; fledging period 35 days; young independent after 14 days; separate from parents at latest four weeks after fledging, as two breedings per year possible; young can be attacked by male; not sensitive to nestbox inspection.